Over the past several weeks I have seen what could have been a “normal” election process crumble into a mud-slinging free-for-all rife with rumor, innuendo and attacks from all sides.
It’s been reduced to personal attacks directed at people that just wanted to run for office of an organization this is supposed to bring the LGBT community together. Instead I see the entire process as as pulling the community apart.
I’ve been torn over the past 36 hours or so as to what to say or do. What can I do to try to stop the dissension without making it worse. Every time I look at FB or the forums I see more behaviour that has hurt Pride and created more strife.
I have been involved with Pride for over 6 years. I have seen earlier Boards deal with the same issues and over the past two years as Prides chairman have done my best to limit the drama and turmoil that have plagued Pride in the past. Personally, I think we did a fairly good job. Pride has grown substantially in members, vendors, sponsors, and attendees.. Donations have reached a point where the Board is in a position to make contributions to the good work of other LGBT nonprofits and make a substantial donation to RL groups as well. However, the unnecessary drama and lack of truthfulness that have publicly emerged during this election have taken all the hard work of restoring the credibility of Pride and wasted it.
My actions over the past two weeks have been to do what I can to quell this fire without adding new fuel to it. I fear that there is no way to accomplish that and after I finish writing and posting this response it might make matters worse. But I feel the membership needs to understand my motivations and and why I contacted Cortez in the first place. I disagree with some of what Cortez Brandriss said in her statement to the Board, but do understand her ire, as my notecard on “tickets” must have encouraged a great deal of communication directed to her that she did not deserve. I have the chat logs that might explain better what really happened during that discussion but in releasing them I would bring more undue attention to someone that just wanted to serve our community and never deserved being drug into this. I apologise to her for my role in this whole affair.
Last year, early in the election, I had, myself, suggested to some of the other candidates that they form a “ticket”. After some thought, I decided it was a bad idea, and nothing was ever done with regard to the formation of any alliances. A new Board was elected and a very diverse group of people took their positions on the Board. I had worked with Khar and Tootsie on the previous Board and knew them both well. None of the other people on last year's Board were friends of mine. I knew who they were, but none of us were close friends. It was a diverse Board with people having new and fresh ideas. No one or one group “controlled” the board and because of that there was a lively and effective exchange of ideas and I think the success of the Pride Festival this year showed what a diverse and independent group of people could accomplish. I was but one vote on the Board and many times my ideas were “shot down”.The independence of each board member allowed for a dynamic effective Board that worked on the basis of “what was best for Pride”.
This year, before all of the candidates even declared, a group of people did in fact create an alliance This alliance was formed by Dex and included several other candidates running for various positions, most of them selected by Dex and asked to run by him. There is nothing in the by-laws that prevents this. There is nothing wrong with Dex asking others to run for some of the other offices. I was concerned by the prospect of having a single group of people led by one person, in control of the Board. Were these people assembled because of the abilities they brought to Pride or because of the votes they could deliver from the various groups they were affiliated with.? I felt that a slate might stymie and restrict new ideas and in effect place one person in control of the entire Board. These concerns grew as the election progressed and the selected slate of candidates both denied the nature of their alliance while simultaneously making statements hinting at rule changes and other actions that they had apparently agreed to, but which they were not discussed in a public forum. We have seen this in past Pride boards and it resulted in stagnation.The board was run from a perspective of “my way or the highway” mentality. This created drama and because of a single perspective being the only way, Pride suffered.
When I looked at the candidates for Event Director I was encouraged by the entry of Cortez. Here was a person that could bring great things to Pride. She had experience running events that resulted in huge involvement from many communities and I was excited seeing her in the running. As far as I was concerned she was head and shoulders above the other two candidates and would bring great things to Pride. Then I learned about the “ticket” created by Dex. Another candidate for the Events chair, MzMarville was part of his “team” as were others. I was alarmed in hearing about a threat to Cortez, and I contacted her. I asked her if she might consider joining forces with Hotboy in an attempt to garner greater support and counter the effect of the “ticket” against her. They both brought different talents to the job. She suggested that she could concentrate on the fundraising and social events and he had great experience in working in clubs and DJ’s. She even suggested that the next Board divide the job up into two board positions. Not a bad idea. But her dismay at knowing that MzMarville was allied with “someone running for Board chairman” disturbed her and in her own words...”this process, people changing rules and adding people to their ticket in the middle of an election just seems to completely insult all of the work that has gone into making this election process happen”. The end result was that Cortez pulled out of the election.
I assume responsibility for bringing news of the "ticket" and the idea of how she might counter that strategy. In my enthusiasm to see a worthy candidate elected, it violated her sense of fairness. In retrospect, it was an error of judgement for a board chair to take this role. I wish I had approached it in a different way. I’m saddened and dismayed that Cortez left the election. She was one of the most qualified and talented people that has run for a Pride office in a long time. My only intention was to present to her a means of countering what I considered a formidable challenge to her candidacy.Unfortunately, my motives and my intention backfired in a way that was wholly unintended.
After some thought I decided to send the note card out concerning “tickets”. A notecard to the entire membership that specifically stated that there was nothing “illegal” about forming such tickets, but that people might consider voting for people because they are the best person for the job and not because they are part of an alliance. I was hoping to encourage candidates and voters to consider that there was more at stake in this election than getting elected, that Pride’s independent Board was at stake.
Apparently, this note card, where I mentioned that “a candidate” had dropped out because of the “ticket”, brought considerable and undeserved attention to Cortez and she wrote the Board a private note explaining her reasons for withdrawing and condemning me. I can understand her wrath at me after she had received numerous IM’s from people and her feeling that I used her as an example in my note card. That was never my intention. I believed she was an outstanding candidate - one that would win in a normal election in which the best candidates were chosen based on their qualifications and not their affiliations with other candidates. All I attempted to do was try to suggest a way to counter an organized alliance that was detrimental to her candidacy.
As one might surmise, Dex was thrilled in receiving her note. Ms Bradiriss' justifiable anger made it look like. I was behind some grand conspiracy. The Board discussed this in a Skype conversation. I wanted to issue an apology to her in public assuming responsibility for my part in this.( I did send her an apology personally). Dex wanted her private note to the Board released to the public. Cortez was contacted and she expressly asked that her note remain private and that she did not want to be bothered about this any longer and that she would continue her PLATINUM sponsorship next year at Pride.
Evidently, Dex thought he knew better and decided to release her note against her wishes. In doing so Dex deliberately violated Cortez’s trust and unilaterally went against what the Board had decided. This unfortunately resulted in a subsequent communication form Cortez where she pulled entirely out of Pride and will not be participating in future Pride festivals. . Dex's unilateral decision to publish this information - knowing that one of our largest sponsors was already angry and had expressly asked us not to, did not just rob me of an opportunity to apologize for my role, but more importantly illustrates a calculation that the damage it would do - to me - to Cortez - and to the credibility of Second Pride was less important than his own short term gain.
I have always attempted to lead Pride from the perspective of “what is best for Pride”. I’ve always encouraged others on the board and all members to look at Pride from that perspective. Yes, I may have made some mistakes in this whole affair, but my intentions were doing what I thought “was best for Pride”. I have swept many, MANY situations under the rug concerning Dex but I choose to keep quiet about them rather than bring any discredit to Pride. In a recent blog posting, Dex purports to express his outrage and declares that "when I am chair I will not stand for the lack of transparency".. I agree. In view of the information Dex has chosen to release thus far, , membership deserves to know more about our actions in recent Days. Specifically, Dex has made several attempts within the board both to eliminate his only opposing candidate, and to purge questions he does not feel it is fair for him to answer from the public forums. At the eleventh hour he tried to convince the Board that the cut off needed to be rolled back 12 hours, thus disqualifying his only opposing candidate. In effect allowing him to run unopposed. .. After the Board sent out notices to the membership defining the cut off times and dates which were published for over a week and a half. Dex demanded that we change these cut offs retroactively and eliminate his opposition This after the Board agreed to and sent out notifications to the membership stating the cut off dates and times over tens days before. Of course it is easier to win an election if you are able to remove a candidate through a backdoor maneuver.
I pose this question... were Dexs’ actions in releasing Cortez’s note against her wishes...”the best for Pride” ? Does it help people make a better choice on who to vote for? Remember, I am not running for office. No.. he released it to discredit me. Dex and I have had issues all year... and I have done my best to keep them quiet for the sake of Pride. His only motivation in releasing this private notecard was to hurt me. I’m a big boy and yes maybe I should get a trip to the “woodshed” but his releasing of her note does nothing to further voter’s knowledge in choosing candidates...it was an attack on me. And I’m sorry that Dex’s and my issues have distracted voters from the real issues.
There is plenty of blame to go around this year for these elections being reduced to a mockery from BOTH sides. Dex’s “scorched earth” mentality justified by his sense of “principle” has harmed Pride. Damian’s use of an alt asking Dex questions was obvious.
An independent Board is the only way for Pride to effectively manage the attainment of Prides’ Mission. Would it have been easier this past year for me to manage the Board if I had a bunch of hand picked “yes” men ? Absolutely!! Would it have been the best for Pride. Absolutely not!!
Independent board members allow for the expression of many more ideas and a more dynamic governing body. Yes, it’s messy. People argue and make their case, but in the end each board member independently makes a decision and in most cases reaches a decision that works best. Each member represents one vote. If one Board member is out in “left field” the collective Board tempers the crazy ideas and comes up with a decent solution. I as the Chairman have many times had to bow to the collective will of the Board and then stand up in the end and speak the Boards wishes. That is leadership. That is doing what is BEST FOR PRIDE.
All I ask is that each of our members vote based on what is best for Pride. And vote to create an independent board. My time here is over. Term limits and a desire to “get my Second Life back” have brought me back to being just a member, just like the rest of you. Yes I would like to see Pride continue to grow and build upon what myself and many others have done, but that will have to be left to whoever we elect this year. I trust that the collective will of the membership will bring Pride a thoughtful and dynamic and independent board that will move us in a positive direction. I also pray and trust that all of the division and strife over these elections can be but in the past and WE ALL WILL DO WHAT IS BEST FOR PRIDE.
Outgoing ChairpersonSecond Pride